In many parts of the world, Lyme disease ranks as the most common tick-borne illness. Symptoms can start slowly with a rash or a headache, but can progress more severely into joint, muscular, cognitive, and neurological complications, and can even damage organs. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) for Lyme disease has been proven to be able to treat the illness and is especially effective for those who are resistant to other antibiotic treatments.

The expert physiotherapists at Mississauga Health & Wellness Centre have created this comprehensive guide to help you better understand Lyme disease, identifying the stages, signs, symptoms, and progression of Lyme disease, how Lyme disease is transmitted, how to prevent it, and Lyme disease treatment, what is hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and how its unique procedure works compared to other treatments.


Understanding Lyme Disease

Lyme disease was first identified in the early 1970s by Dr. Allen Steere. He found that through the bite of infected black-legged or deer ticks, the bacterium was transmitted to humans. The first recorded diagnosis of Lyme disease was in Old Lyme, Connecticut, hence Dr. Steere’s name of choice. There are currently 4 known species of bacteria that can cause Lyme disease, all 4 of which spread via the black-legged tick. Typical symptoms include headache, fever, fatigue, and erythema migrans, a characteristic skin rash. Infection can spread to the heart, joints, and the nervous system if left untreated.

Doctors diagnose Lyme disease based on symptoms, physical findings such as a rash, and taking into account whether you have potentially been exposed to infected ticks. Fortunately, treatment for Lyme disease can be successful by using antibiotics within the first few weeks. Lyme disease can be prevented by using insect repellent, applying pesticides, removing ticks promptly, and reducing time spent in tick habitats.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Lyme Disease

HBOT is unlike traditional therapies because its unique treatment involves high concentrations of oxygen, the very element that ticks cannot withstand. The bacteria that cause Lyme disease are unable to survive in oxygen-rich, pressurized environments, because they are anaerobic. Where bacteria may develop resistance to traditional antibiotics, hyperbaric oxygen therapy and its use of oxygen make sense why bacteria would not only be able to not thrive in this setting, but eventually be killed off. Many physicians are adding HBOT treatments to traditional therapy at the same time, to cure the patient as these two treatments work together effectively.

Hyperbaric oxygen helps to treat symptoms and conditions suffered from Lyme disease, in addition to killing off the infected bacteria. In cases of PTLDS, nothing else can provide relief other than HBOT. Conditions such as chronic inflammation, joint and muscle pain, chronic inflammation, nerve damage, and cognitive complications, often return to normal during the treatment.

How HBOT for Lyme Disease Works

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy works in the following order:

Removal of Bacteria and Toxins. HBOT delivers increased levels of oxygen in the blood to kill of viruses and bacteria.
Production of Stem Cells. This helps stimulate additional stem cell production in the body and these stem cells repair damaged tissue, helping alleviate muscle and joint pain.
New Blood Vessels and Better Blood Flow. By helping to grow and establish new blood vessels, this oxygen-rich blood reduces the levels of inflammation in the body.
Stimulates the Production of White Blood Cells. With higher oxygen levels giving the body’s immune system a boost and with the production of white blood cells, this promotes the body’s healing properties and recovery begins.
Repairs Brain Function. HBOT’s pressurized levels of oxygen stimulate brain function helping most patients restore cognitive abilities, and recovering functional thinking and memory.
Damaged Organs Recover. In chronic cases where organs such as the liver, eyes, and heart are affected, the increased oxygen contributes to healing and, in most cases, the organs return to normal function.

What are Jarishc-Herxheimer Reactions?

An individual whose been administered antibiotics to treat an infection caused by a spirochete may experience a sudden and typically transient response. Otherwise known as Jarishc-Herxheimer reactions, signs, and symptoms include chills, feeling sick, a low-grade fever, shivers, cognitive impairment, flushing of skin, low blood pressure, increased muscle and joint pain, headache, breathing fast, grogginess, muscle aches, fast heartbeat, and worsening of skin lesions.

It is very common for those receiving HBOT treatment to experience any one or more of these reactions because once the oxygen kills off all Borrelia bacteria, the large, recently died remnants fill toxins into the body. It’s only once the body eliminates the dead bacteria that patients will report symptom improvement.

Jarishc-Herxheimer Reactions
HBOT Treatment

The FDA on Lyme Disease, Hyperbaric Oxygen, & HBOT Treatment

As of 2023, HBOT is not approved by the FDA for treating Lyme disease and doctors use this method as an alternative course of treatment.

Despite not yet having FDA approval, Lyme disease, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatment have proven in numerous studies to be effective in killing the disease and helping patients recover from their symptoms.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Helps After Years of Failed Treatments

There is a case report of a 31-year-old man who underwent years of traditional antibiotic treatments, but after unsuccessful treatment after unsuccessful treatment with symptoms always returning, the patient received 30 sessions of HBOT at 2.5 atmosphere absolute (ATA), with each session lasting 1.5 hours.

Following the first 10 sessions, the patient’s sleep disturbances and loss of thinking ability disappeared, periorbital twitching and numbness in the extremities disappeared after 20 treatments, and other musculoskeletal symptoms and joint pain disappeared after the full 30 treatments.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Helps After Years of Failed Treatments
tick on human finger

Transmission and Prevention of Lyme Disease

Most cases of Lyme disease reported in the United States occur in the upper north-eastern states, the upper mid-western states, and the northwest states on the West Coast. Ticks remain close to the ground and their habitats are heavily grassy areas or wooded, shady areas. They cling to tall shrubs, grass, and bushes. The ticks connected to transmitting Lyme disease are very small and are typically in the nymph stage.

Ticks are most likely to attach to hairy or hidden areas of the body, such as the scalp, groin, and armpit, though they can attach and bite anywhere on a human. The infected tick must be attached and fed for more than 36 hours for the transmission of bacteria to occur. Hiking and camping are activities that require extra care and caution to check for ticks regularly, and if you do come in contact with one, remove it as soon as possible. You face a greater risk of developing Lyme disease the longer the tick remains attached.

Stages of Lyme Disease

There are 3 stages of Lyme disease that are categorized based on the spread rate of the bacteria.

Stage 1: Localized Lyme Disease – Typically at the site of the tick bite, this is the early stage of the disease when the bacterium is focused in a localized area.
Stage 2: Early Disseminated Lyme Disease – In this stage, patients may begin experiencing additional symptoms as bacteria begins to spread throughout the body.
Stage 3: Late Disseminated Lyme Disease – Bacteria is widespread in the body at this point. If treatment for Lyme disease has not yet begun, severe symptoms are likely to occur, and patients may experience a loss in quality of life.

person sitting with joined hands
Mental Health Therapy

Signs and Symptoms of Lyme Disease

It’s essential to remove the tick immediately when a tick attaches and feeds on your skin because the longer your skin and the tick are connected, the higher your risk is of contracting Lyme disease. After a tick bite, the appearance of a small, red bump is a normal reaction. This red bump is not a sign of Lyme disease and typically heals on its own. If the tick spreads Lyme disease, the initial symptoms will develop in one week’s time on average, but your body can react upwards of 30 days. The rash, erythema migrans, is a trademark sign of Lyme disease. It can grow slowly and may feel warm to the touch, but not feel itchy or painful. Regardless, you should seek out your physician to get it checked out. As the rash begins to spread, flu-like symptoms develop around the same time. A common symptom is also swollen lymph nodes.

If you see the target rash, are feeling flu-like symptoms, or have been exposed to ticks, get in for Lyme disease treatment as soon as possible. Antibiotic therapy, if taken immediately, is often enough to cure Lyme disease.

Progression of Lyme Disease

If Lyme disease is left untreated, traditional antibiotic treatment may no longer be viable, and symptoms will continue to progress by spreading to other areas of the body. In the months after initial exposure, additional symptoms that develop include:

Erythema Migrans (Rash) – The initial target rash continues to spread and additional rashes can develop throughout the body.
Joint and Muscular Complications – When Lyme disease attacks the joints in your body, it causes severe pain and swelling to occur.
Neurological Complications – Lyme disease can cause nerve pain, spinal cord inflammation, meningitis (inflammation in the brain), impaired muscle movement, Bell’s palsy (temporary facial paralysis), and numbness or weakness in the legs and arms.
Severe Fatigue – This level of fatigue is so debilitating it greatly affects your quality of life.
Organ Involvement – This includes heart complications (irregular heartbeats), eye inflammation, or inflammation of the liver.
Cognitive Complications – This includes confusion, impaired memory, loss of words, and the inability to concentrate.

tick on the human hand

Get Hyperbaric Treatment for Lyme Disease

After learning about how to treat Lyme disease through hyperbaric oxygen therapy, contact the physiotherapists at Mississauga Health & Wellness Centre to book your appointment today.